Digital transformation means a lot of things to different people. In its simplest form, it is the ongoing pursuit of achieving the highest levels of scale, efficiency, innovation and profit using data and technology.
In the context of strategy and operations, I have found three keys to effective digital marketing transformation.
Change is frustrating, and it can seem inefficient at first. Digital transformations are designed to alter company culture as well as many long-standing strategies, processes and tools.
Organizational challenges are often the biggest hurdles. Adopting the requisite technology or data is the easy part. You can only do those things, however, if everyone is equally willing to commit themselves to a shared vision — even if it means sacrificing their current operating models.
For example, if you’re part of a global company that’s managing its marketing channels separately by region, there are several changes you can make, shifting the team structure to drive greater scale and efficiency. A simple framework that’s easy to remember is to think global and execute local.
“Think global” means establishing a global framework on which all teams can depend on for technical resources, direction, knowledge-sharing and collaboration.
“Execute local” means putting trust in the regional teams to apply your marketing strategy according to the unique and nuanced requirements of their local markets.
Digital transformation is about finding that right balance between standardization, scale and locally relevant execution.
2. Channel Management
An important step for any marketing team that’s undertaking a digital transformation is to rethink its channel management strategy — not who is managing each marketing channel, but how those channels are working together. One of the most pervasive issues that can diminish your marketing return on investment (ROI) is the lack of cross-channel optimization. This requires some changes in your cross-channel processes.
In the pre-digital era, a fully integrated marketing strategy might transpire like so:
• Marketing researchers uncover insights.
• The creative director pitches a campaign idea.
• The media team develops a mixed-media plan.
• The creative team produces assets for each media type (TV, radio, etc.).
• The media buying team negotiates rates and placements.
• The campaign goes live across all media channels, resulting in a connected experience across all media touch points.
• Sales go up.
• The client is happy.
Every team in this example might be measured against a unique set of metrics in their respective discipline.
Today, applying the same rules and standalone measures of success across your marketing channels could be flawed or misleading. Take social or content marketing, for instance. For years, marketers defended the efficacy of these channels by arguing that their functions are not designed to directly influence sales. We refer to these activities as “top-of-funnel tactics.”
The risk is that if you cannot correctly attribute value to those activities, they will be the first to go when budgets tighten because they don’t generate sales. What value should you attribute to those activities? The answer presents itself when you manage your digital channels in a truly integrated way.
Properly Managing Your Digital Channels
If all you look at is last-touch attribution when analyzing your sales performance, you may think the best converting channels are paid search and display retargeting. These channels do well in terms of converting new customers because they’re typically focused on the bottom of the funnel — the stage of the customer journey when people are most primed to shop or buy something.
We easily forget that the bottom-of-funnel marketing tactics can only perform when there’s a funnel to begin with. Search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, social — those are the channels that develop your top-of-funnel audience.
The most important goal for any marketing organization is to grow and manage its audience. It all begins and ends with this body of data.
You can build (and define) your audience through every conceivable customer touch point and save this information using a data management platform (DMP). The DMP can store several bits of information about your audience, including email addresses, purchase statuses and every marketing channel they have interacted with over time.
For example, imagine your company sells airline tickets, and your SEO team builds a landing page about the 10 most romantic locations in the United Kingdom. This page doesn’t mention the cost of flights to England. However, the content is intended to inspire prospective travelers who are considering a trip to the UK.
A visitor finds this page (via Google Search) and clicks through to your article. The visitor reads more articles and then leaves and doesn’t return for a while. While on your website, you mark them using a Facebook tracking pixel. All this information is now stored in your DMP.
Later, you launch a Facebook retargeting ad campaign that promotes an exclusive, low-cost travel special to the UK. You configure your campaign to serve ads to people who viewed pages on your website related to UK content.
The visitor in our example never sees the ad. Why? Because a few days before the campaign, that visitor returned to your website and purchased a ticket to Paris. Their information was saved in your customer relationship manager (CRM), which also sends data to your DMP, and you had set up a rule to avoid serving Facebook ads to customers who purchased any airline tickets in the last 60 days.
Who takes credit for the purchase of the flight to Paris? Which media channel(s) deserves credit for saving your organization the unspent media dollars that could have been wasted on this traveler if he or she was served your ad?
Obviously, this is a trick question.
This is an example of marketing success that can be attributed to all the digital channels working together, made possible by technology.
Digital marketing transformation never ends, but correctly executing these three keys will help transform your team members to become pioneers of change and innovation. Your internal processes become streamlined, and your capacity to adopt technology and change your organization around its abilities will give your business a distinct advantage over your competition.